By Igor Studenkov
For the Bugle
The Village of Niles Board of Trustees gave a final approval to Niles Township District 219 school bus parking family – though the approval wasn’t quite unanimous.
The Special Use permits required to make the facility possible, as well as the inter-governmental agreement between the village and the district, have been in the works for almost 9 months. The village Planning and Zoning Board had issues with many aspects of the district’s plan, and it ultimately decided to send it up to the village board without recommending either approval or denial. And once it reached the village board, Trustee George Alpogianis, who used to sit on the Plan Commission, voted against two out of three permits – the only trustee who attended the meeting to do so.
As previously reported by the Bugle, District 219 decided to build its own family because, when it tried to negotiate the most recent school bus service agreement, all of the bids were too high for its comfort. Any bidder who got the contract would have had to build the new bus parking from scratch, and none of them wanted to bear the costs by themselves. The district was allowed to use the Niles West High School parking lot as temporary storage, but the Village of Skokie made it clear that they needed to find another, more permanent site as soon as possible.
District 219 acquired two lots at 6100-6140 Gross Point Road. When it went before the planning and zoning board in June 2016, commissioners expressed concerns about the impact on traffic, especially at the complex three-way intersection and railway crossing to the north.
After months of negations, and the creation of the inter-governmental agreement between the district and the village, the village board took up the issue during its Feb. 28 meeting.
The first Special Use permit, which allowed District 219 to establish the bus storage facility, passed unanimously. But when the second permit, which would exempt the district from the zoning landscaping requirement in order to give more room for employee parking, Alpogianis said he had concerns.
“There doesn’t seem to be a landscaping plan,” he said, adding that, when he was on the Plan Commission, this was something that was rigorously enforced.
Tom Rychlik, the project engineer, explained that they were putting in some landscaping, adding a total of 16 trees and a six-foot fence. But that wasn’t enough to mollify Alpogianis, and he cast the only ‘no’ vote.
When the third permit, one that would combine the two parcels into one, came up for vote, the trustee said he had concerns about the facility in general, and how many Niles residents it served. Eric Trimberger, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Business, explained that about 130 students who live in Niles were eligible for bus service, and that would take 7-8 buses to transport them. He also noted that the buses would be used to transport students to some area elementary schools, including Niles’ Culver Elementary School.
Alpogianis wound up casting the sole “no” vote for that resolution as well. But when the inter-governmental agreement between the school and the district came up for vote, he joined the rest of the board in approving it.
Mayor Andrew Przybylo said he appreciated all the work that went into the agreement, on both the village and the district sides.
“I applaud your efforts to do this, and I think it shows especially good [results of] government units working together for an education purpose,” he said.
Traffic calming for Maryland Street
The Village of Niles Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve traffic calming measures for the section of Maryland Street between Ballard Road and Church Street.
As previously reported by the Bugle, on Sept. 22, 2015, the trustees approved policy that would allow residents living along less busy side streets to petition the village to address traffic issues they are facing. The petitioner – which can be a resident, a business or a village trustee – has to get at least one third of all households on the street section in question to sign a petition saying they support traffic calming. If there are enough signatures, the village staff studies the traffic issues noted in the petition and send its findings to the public services committee, which would make recommendations about how those issues will be addressed. After getting resident feedback, the committee prepares the final report and sends it to the village board for the final approval.
In case of Maryland Street, the committee recommended putting in two “speed tables” near the intersections. The pavement is raised – not quite as dramatically as it would be for a speed bump, but still enough to encourage drivers to slow down. Signs will be put up to warn approaching drivers about the speed tables.
As the vote concluded, Niles mayor Andrew Przybylo said he welcomed more traffic calming petitions.
“At times, people will tell [me] about cars using residential streets as thoroughfares,” he said. “You are more than welcome to petition the village for traffic calming. In fact, I welcome it.”